What does a Physical Therapist do?
Physical therapists are healthcare professionals that diagnose and treat patients of all ages who have physical impairments. PT’s examine each individual and develop a plan using treatment techniques to promote improved mobility, reduction in pain, and ultimately restore function. PT’s also encourage prevention and develop fitness/wellness programs for healthier and more active lifestyles.
What are three questions patients should consider asking during their visit?
- What is the underlying problem that is limiting my mobility or causing pain?
When people understand the diagnosis and what is causing the problem, they have a better prognosis. People will be more compliant with the prescribed exercises and treatments. They will also be more conscious of faulty posture or movement patterns and make appropriate changes to restore function.
- What other factors are involved in my recovery?
There are usually many factors that will affect a person’s outcome. Some of these factors may be outside of their control (age, genetics, etc) but other factors can be controlled to facilitate healing.
- How can I prevent this from happening again?
Many injuries and postural problems can be prevented with exercise and awareness. Neck and back pain are a prime examples, often times each episode is a warning sign and left untreated; the problem will progressively worsen. This often results in surgery. If people will heed the warning signs and make the proper changes, they can usually prevent debilitating pain and costly surgeries.
What is the largest misconception you think patients have about physical therapy?
“No pain, no gain!” This philosophy usually does not apply to rehab. It is extremely important to monitor symptoms during rehab and know the difference between discomfort and pain. The therapist will challenge you and afterwards you may have increased soreness. However, true pain that is well localized, sharp or sudden; should be avoided.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give patients to improve their overall health?
It is hard to narrow this topic down to just one piece of advice…but if I had to choose, it would be: develop a lifestyle that includes being active. All diets and exercise programs have 100% failure rates. To make a lasting difference, people have to make a lifestyle commitment which includes activities promoting strength, stamina and flexibility. This type of lifestyle has many benefits including: healthy weight, reduced blood pressure, reduced cholesterol, lower risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and depression…just to name a few.
If folks wanted additional health information about physical therapy, what are some available resources?
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is an excellent resource. For those who are interested in a possible career in Physical Therapy, spending time as a job shadow with a few different therapists is highly recommended.